Financial PTSD

How Narcissistic Abuse Syndrome Triggers Financial PTSD

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Do you feel sick to your stomach every time you spend $3 on a simple coffee?

Are you meticulously combing your debit history at least once a day?

Do thoughts of bills and frivolous purchases wake you up in the middle of the night in a panic?

Do you attach a dollar sign to everything?

If any of these set off alarm bells, you may be suffering from financial PTSD as an overlapping symptom of narcissistic abuse syndrome.

Narcissists have dangerous relationships with money, and we pay the price. As survivors of narcissistic abuse syndrome, recovery often requires overcoming the narcissistic financial abuse we suffered – sometimes for years.

Narcissistic Abuse Syndrome and Complex PTSD

Many people don’t realize that suffering narcissistic abuse for weeks, months, or years can lead to complex post-traumatic stress disorder (CPTSD) which often includes financial PTSD.

CPTSD differs from PTSD in that it’s caused by long-term trauma rather than a one-time event (like a car crash or hurricane). In most cases, the trauma that causes CPTSD comes from someone who was supposed to be a close loved one or caregiver.

CPTSD can destroy every aspect of your life from social interactions and future relationships to career goals and finances. The narcissist really does a number on your self-esteem and identity.

Instead of reading blog after blog about symptoms of narcissism, look inwards to how the relationship with the narcissist has affected you. Signs of general CPTSD from narcissistic abuse syndrome include

  • You always feel alone – even around friends and family.
  • You’re experiencing imposter syndrome – no matter how much you’ve accomplished on paper.
  • You feel like nothing you do will ever be good enough.
  • You constantly stress about money (financial PTSD).
  • Your relationship with the narcissist consumes all your thoughts, time, and energy (often due to fighting the same fights over and over).
  • You feel like you’re constantly “walking on eggshells” or on the verge of a panic attack.
  • You’ve changed your core values or key pieces of your identity to please the narcissist or conform to their idea of an ideal partner (which is ever-changing, thus impossible to achieve)
  • You believe you’re unworthy of a stable relationship, happiness, or affection.

5 Faces of Manipulative Narcissistic Financial Abuse

Every narcissist has an unhealthy relationship with money, and they unload these dangerous habits onto their victims which, in many cases, turns into financial PTSD.   Think of it like a computer virus that gets uploaded into your subconscious mind and continues multiplying until you’re completely obsessed with the financial abuse you’ve endured.

However, not every narcissist is the same. Narcissistic financial abuse takes many forms.

  1. The Moocher

The Moocher can’t hold down a decent job. They’ll rattle off one petty excuse after another as to why (of course it’s never their fault) but, it typically stems from a disdain for authority.

If there’s a loophole to swindle money, this narcissist will exploit it – whether it’s hiding assets to qualify for government assistance or calling the McDonald’s complaint line with lies for a $10 gift card.

When all else fails, you’re the one who fills the gap of course. Many people go into debt dealing with this type of narcissistic financial abuse and suffer long-term financial PTSD.

  1. The Dollar Lama

Typically male, this narcissist tends to earn moderate to high levels of income which they weaponize against their female partner.

The Dollar Lama often convinces their partner to quit their job (no matter how much money she makes or how successful she is) under the guise that he can handle it, which leads to financial PTSD.

That’s because he intends to control you – not take care of you.

  1. The Broker of Deafening Silence

This is your standard materialistic narcissist. They contribute financially to the relationship (often more than they need to) and believe this is all the relationship effort needed from them.

The Broker of Deafening Silence replaces emotional connection and affection with extravagant gifts, expensive jewelry, and vacations.

This narcissist loves to wield the silent treatment and executes it particularly well because they’re so far detached from any normal emotion.

  1. The Self-Appointed Princess

She may have a six-figure salary and a Ph.D. but would give it all up in a heartbeat if she finds a man willing to kneel at her feet.

The image of Jan Levinson from The Office comes to mind here when she drove Michael into debt after losing her C-level job.

Entitlement issues run strong and this doesn’t change when children enter the picture either. Mom always comes first. Her wardrobe and plastic surgery are at the top of her list of priorities.  The Self-Appointed Princess is also a master financial manipulator who loves to gaslight and play the perpetual victim.

  1. The Chronic Capitalist

Everything has a dollar sign attached to it – and you can’t afford it.

To this narcissist, if you can’t make money from something, it’s not worth doing.

Have an idea for a new hobby? The Chronic Capitalist will remind you that you’ll never be good enough to make money from it – so why bother?

Want to go back to school to improve your salary? Surely, they’ll support your dreams to make more money, right? This type of narcissist will remind you that you can’t afford it – haven’t you heard about the crippling debt of student loans?!

To the Chronic Capitalist, there’s always a reason you can’t do something. Hint: It’s always money.

Of course, when they want to do something *gasp* just for fun, the attitude suddenly turns into #TreatYoSelf.

Are You Suffering from Financial PTSD?

Dr. Mark Goulston M.D. describes narcissistic financial abuse as a vicious cycle: You’re constantly traumatized and re-traumatized so instead of focusing on actual solutions, you just become increasingly anxious and defenseless.

He calls it the 4 Ds of financial abuse:

  1. Debt: Every discussion about finances – no matter how mundane – becomes triggering and turns into a panic attack. You cringe as you swipe your card to buy a coffee without getting approval from the narcissist first.
  2. Dependency: You feel out of control and rely on the narcissist (often unwillingly) for access to money. They may make you feel guilty for either not earning as much as them or not sharing enough of your income with them.
  3. Distrust: You can’t trust the narcissist with joint finances because they’re either selfish, irresponsible, or both. They withhold your own money from you claiming that you can’t be trusted (gaslighting).
  4. Denial: We turn to denial as a coping tool when narcissistic abuse syndrome turns us into passive bystanders in our own lives and finances. You tell yourself that the narcissist really does know better so they should control the finances and if they don’t, is it really worth the argument?

Overcoming Financial PTSD Requires Diligent Recovery

Money shouldn’t consume all your thoughts. That’s not healthy.

Another world is possible. You know you can feel it and you know you deserve it.

You may not feel like there’s a way out and that you can never make it on your own but that’s the narcissistic abuse syndrome talking.

Narcissistic abuse breaks down your very identity. It strips away your sense of self and replaces it with 100% focus and attention to the narcissist. You feel worthless and you genuinely don’t believe you’re deserving of anything better. This is as good as it gets, right?

Recovering from narcissistic financial abuse requires a comprehensive plan. Until you address the underlying CPTSD symptoms, your financial PTSD will keep holding you back.   You’ll always feel like you’re broke and that you can’t possibly spend a single dollar on yourself.

Abundance Tip:  Stop saying these phrases, starting now:

“I’m broke”

“I can’t afford it”

“I never have enough money”

“I barely have enough to cover my bills”

When you always focus on ‘being broke’ and constantly talk about it, you are summoning the forces of the Universe to keep you in that place.  It’s like praying to stay broke!  

Avoiding these phrases is a positive first step in your recovery from financial PTSD.

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Stephen says January 20, 2024

This is yet another perfect description of how brutal it is to be married to someone with a narcissistic disorder… Nice work Kim 👍

Donna says April 22, 2022

Hey Kim. I was married to a narcissist for 14 years. I paid all the bills with no help from him. If I did have extra money left over and bought something for the house or for my yorkies, he would literally jump down my throat and tell me that I needed to stop ordering things. It wasn’t like it happened every month. I became disabled during our marriage and of course, it was my fault for choosing the surgeon that messed up my back. Even the short few years that my sons from my first marriage were living with me (us), he treated them like crap behind my back. After going on disability while he was still working, he accused me of sleeping around and made an excuse to take a voluntary layoff just to be home with me. And just to keep the peace at home, I was isolated from my family, including my children. And God help if I was to get a rare call from them. Still the financial burden was on me and he was drawing more money than I was. I have suffered physical, emotional, verbal and mental abuse during that marriage. But through all of this, I found unconditional love through my fur kids. My yorkie girl ended up protecting me from the physical violence with all of her 11 lbs, she would lay over my head at night to keep him from hurting me because in the end, that’s where he attacked. No more slamming my against the wall, just focusing on my forehead. Yes, I had been on many medications for my physical problems and I did sometimes abuse them to escape what was going on. I decided to go to rehab because I knew that I couldn’t get off of the cocktail of meds that my doctor at the time had me on. When I got home from rehab, I realized then how bad things were. My youngest son finally helped me get away from him. We moved 3 hours away. Then came the texts and calls. I only took the calls because he kept my yorkie girl. He wouldn’t let me take her with me. He kept the boy. I got so tired of the “I love yous” and “when are you coming backs”. But I was determined to get my girl back. And I did, 4 months later. I was also still paying all the joint bills and just three days after the last “when are you coming back”, I happened to look at the mobile phone bill and found out that he had already been talking to someone else. So, I cut off his phone and since the title to his truck had already been notarized to take my name off of it, I was able to cancel his insurance. This saved me a lot of money. After initially leaving, my body went through stress withdrawal for a solid month. I have never been so sick in my life! Eventually, my son started taking advantage of me with money and watching three little boys that they were wanting to adopt. I was only there for 8 months. I had to get out for my health. The following three months were a disaster also. I lived with someone who I thought was my best friend from high school, but she only took advantage of me for money. She wanted me to pay everything so she could blow her money on whatever. I left. My Mom needed help because she had just sprained her dominant wrist and was to give it total rest. I slept on her living room floor with my girl and felt blessed to be away from money grubbers. Just one month later, I moved into my own apartment! I didn’t have but a few things of my own, except for my clothing and my “so gracious” ex only sent 1/4 of my yorkie’s clothes. Her name was Abbie. I managed to pay my own way and saved every penny I could just to buy Abbie the things that she needed, including a car seat. 15 months after leaving my ex, I decided to give one particular man a chance. Before that, I wanted nothing to do with a relationship. I eventually moved in with him. He does treat me like I’m special and loved my girl so much. Best Daddy she could have ever had. Then another blow was felt when my Abbie passed just 13 days after being diagnosed with kidney failure. I was devastated! I was offered the chance to be a Mommy again to a tiny little yorkie and I jumped at the chance. My Emmi Rose is my angel. She is now my service baby and goes with me everywhere. I have done everything that I can possible to help with the PTSD and anxiety that I suffer from now. Ever since Abbie passed, I now have a problem of overspending when it comes to my little Emmi. I’m just now starting to get it under control. As I’m writing this, I have a 4.4 lb. yorkie on my chest. She senses my anxiety level is up. I will soon be getting lots of puppy ? sugars. I know that I went off topic and I didn’t mean to tell my life story. I just wish my psychiatrist would listen and prescribe the correct dosage of medication that I need. It’s not easy going over the past because I want to leave it in the past. What do you do when your anxiety is completely out of control? I was doing better until the second time I saw him, he started messing with my dosage and trying to prescribe antidepressants which I cannot take. I become a very mean person. I’m searching for another psychiatrist now, until then, I will keep reading your emails, etc and keep myself involved with crafting. And I wouldn’t know if my ex tried to contact me because I blocked everyone’s number that I thought he could call from.

AN says April 22, 2022

Yes. You are absolutely right about the money issue. 20 years of relationship and no savings with her.

Karen says November 5, 2021

So tired today a stressful night . Every so often a trigger happens that brings back confusing memories of the past. This has been brought on by compensation just given because my husband had a full mental break down at work and was unjustly sacked due to severe stress through ghosting and none contact from our son who is living with a partner who has cut ever family member and our sons friends off from us. He has just won his case due to mental stress caused by the relationship of our son and his narc partner. Lucky we had so many caring people trained in mental health who fully understood but so sad for others who have breakdowns leave jobs and do not have access to help and finance through stress involvement.

Laurie Mathis says April 8, 2021

Kim, Hello, I’ve been reading your articles for a long time & u have helped me so much. I am divorced from my NPD but he is still obsessed with me. My problem is we have 2 sons. He abused my oldest to the point he has no self esteem & is homeless so I took him in . He is Narcissistic also & now wont leave. I will lose my place if they find out he lives there. What can I do? He is manipulative & threatening me. I’m disabled due to the abuse from his father & PAS was part of it too. I love my son but cant save him. I’m so very sad he has NPD other severe issues too. His brother got the Alcohol addiction & blacks out. He fights but doesnt remember anything. I think I need help to cope with my boys. 26 yrs old & 23 yrs old. Thank you so much for any advice you give.

Molly says April 20, 2020

I’ve noticed that since I’m no longer living with the Narc, I overspend as a way to comfort myself and because my finances aren’t under scrutiny. I’m not living under the constant expectations to pay more than my share while living “under HIS roof.” Which means I’m currently putting myself in worse financial conditions than I was before. I’m using spending as a coping mechanism to deal with the painful aftermath of that relationship.

It shows how long the effects of Narcissistic Abuse last and it means I’m a long way from recovery.

Ashley says April 2, 2020

All of this rings so true to me and I’ve known for a while I’ve been under funny attribues it’s interesting to hear the term financial P TSD as I’ve always heard at CP TSD a. Financial P TSD rings more true to me than any of the other terms because even though I do have a little bit of the other complex P TSD mostly it’s around finances. Like I could leave I financially I don’t feel stable enough I doubt myself constantly and I struggled. Fast forward to a huge thing where hes blown everything up and I’m not settled with it well because hes actually turned over the will to me for once but he uses it To his advantage to now it’s I can’t manage the bills look how hard I’m struggling when he always so effortlessly managed the bills I don’t think it’s going to be very long before he trusted retake the will and completely kicked me out and I’m scared. I have been managing the Bills and hes right we don’t make enough money and I have no job. I want a job but I have an autistic child that demands my attention and it doesn’t help that I’m being abused and so as he. How can we recover and get help! All he does is push us further down his rabbit hole. I feel so hopeless X when they should point I know I need to leave and I know I want to. I’m so ready for that but I’ve not found one demo opportunity to leave. Living at a woman shelters just not something I’m willing to do and yet it seems like the only viable option that gets me away from him. Mentally I’m not stable enough the prettiest days that are triggered when I in turn to any Kenny conflict with him are ridiculous I sometimes trickle straight down to suicidal. It starts with a tiny fight with him and the next thing I’m doing is beating myself up to a complete Pope telling myself I should die that my son would be better off so many things and he literally agrees with it every time I start to feel this way and I tell him how I’m feeling he just shrugs it off or tells me I’m stupid. He never tells me don’t do that or don’t leave or you know that he loves me or that he wouldn’t want me to be hurt none of that period he only looks like somebody who’s gravy train just my set cell too early. I can Almost cognitively see that the stain of me checking out early before hes done using me. He actually has called me selfish before one have mentioned feeling suicidal because I would just leave him an abandoned him. What the flocking h*** !! He was going to have a rough time before this which is what triggered the power shift and he started saying he was going to kill himself and I did everything in my power to save him including take him back when I didn’t want to told him he neared his place of his own and he refused to go off to his own claiming he couldn’t handle it on his own. That something was wrong with his mind that he was going to die and that he was very sick deathly sick. Every excuse he could think of until I literally flocking cognitively distanced myself because I couldn’t console letting someone die at the costs of my happiness. Looking worse mistake of my life but I had no defenses against. I couldn’t let him do it and yet I knew in my heart he wouldn’t I don’t understand why I’d let him do this to me again. I told him what kind of fragile state hours in and told him he would be running my life and if he wasn’t serious about change he need to leave when I said to leave what does he do 1st right out of the Box when I 1st mentioned not 2 days after he came home that he did me to go ahead and leave that it wasn’t gonna work and he had a way back home to his family he refused I had to call the police on him and they threatened me and I spent the night crying out in the freezing a** cold with my kid. While that broke my spirit in more than one way in the hateful and disbelieving looks of the police officers who had shown up in my home once before all we had a conflict that I was still with him filled me with such embarrassment that I didn’t really raise much more fight about anything I just gave up it was easier than fighting on with the guilt the fear in the stress and the worry and the judgment in the courts of stamps that I would hadn’t gone through in the honesty I would have had to be in about how he treated me to our landlords. I was too prideful I don’t know how to break that pride and be honest. I fell doomed

Tammara C says March 13, 2020

I been on your site reading article after article! I’m alarmed at how accurate and the tears are just rolling cause this is exactly what I am endure… often times I feel crazy because I feel like no one will understand or will just call me a fool… It’s been about 9 months now that I’ve been in this relationship and everything and everyone that I love is gone… all my independence… I was working and tour with a stage play when we met… I am an recording artist and my career was finally taking off… but then he started taking my birth control acting as if he didn’t know where it was… and now I’m 7 months pregnant completely dependent on him… I have nothing… it’s so much more to this… I’m find myself just depressed incapable of standing up for myself anymore… I’m made at myself because I’ve worked so hard through a lot of trauma to find myself in the worst situation ever… the only thing keeping me alive is my unborn baby… I know people will say just leave but how I have 4 other children and I don’t know how I will take care of them… I tried to leave he already told me that he would take my baby… and I don’t have anything to fight him… it just feels hopeless at this point..

Holly says February 15, 2020

Im stuck questioning myself constantly. Am I the narcissist? I was in group therapy for 4 yrs before my toxic relationship. I have bpd borderline personality disorder. Before my ex i was doing good. I excelled in therapy. I was able to identify and express my feelings appropriately. I had stopped dramatizing everything. I had stopped having strong emotional reactions. I was even able to shift my thoughts when i was in a negative emotional state to more positive thoughts. I felt i really learned how to control my emotions. BPD is a personality disorder that falls in type C category. The same category narcissists fall in. Why i struggle wondering if im the narcissist is because I react to his abusive behaviors with abuse. I say mean ugly hurtful things to him. When I catch him in lies about his infidelity. I’ve physically abused him to when the lies continued and his behavior escalated to multiple affairs. I have found myself fully consumed mentally and emotionally where him and our relationship is the only thing i can focus on. I guess i need to know if I’m the narcissist.

Anonymous says December 2, 2019

I wasn’t always like this. Its absurd knowing a fact & yet (what seems like) forcing yourself to live every single day against your own truth in order to survive. You come up with a plan, you tell yourself it’s only for the sake of freedom that you’re fighting your reasoning. Time drags by or doesn’t but energy is scarce so you slip up, you enjoy a few hours engaging the life that you know is a lie. Remembering yourself & how honesty, intuition, your gut feeling were words that were your very basic foundation of self. You can’t remenber if you stopped talking about truth & strength but everyday the conversation continued in your head trying to inspire, anger even bargaining with God; all you want, have ever wanted is be loved, recognized as the person you strive to be. Authentic,
genuine, worthy of the same space in this world as everyone else. It’s hard to find me anymore as doubt & tremor have clouded my reality. On days of clarity I can see for miles & I have hope. Most days reality is fighting the same loop of predictable garbage that isn’t fit to be called a conversation. Your head spins, heart races, you decide you can’t decide..on snuffing because though you know you should go, the road begin as with being homeless as day 1. You’re obligations to others conveniently to the narc take up more than enough time. Your money comes from the enemy only you thank him & find forgiveness. I cant start over Kim! I’m older I’m broke, he pays for my phone & car insurance & I sit quietly dying as he murders me with silence. Indifference is my souls companion now. Its hard to feel anything but whatever is thrown my way by him. I’m tired so tired. I’m nothing. He hasn’t wanted me sexually in 4 Years or more but tells me I’m the most beautiful girl in the world. If I would just: go to sleep earlier, act like a woman not a man, do something besides suck him dry, get more therapy, up my medications, sleep more, sleep less, act nicely to him, listen for once, not be so self centered, selfish & overbearing. Its endless nonsense that doesn’t have any beginning or end. Just this tangle of fear & despair, of sadness & false smiles just to keep the peace for one more night… is this really my truth?

Cindy says November 28, 2019

Kim, I could use some help. I left my job because I was the one dropping off and picking up my kids. He never helped. My boss started to make new rules – no days off for snow, no two employees could be off at the same time. I resigned when it impacted my ability to care for my children. I have a prn job now and I’m slowly saving but I agreed to give him a certain amount each month to help pay bills so it’s a very slow process. He just bought himself a Mercedes and I buy my children’s clothes etc at Target or on eBay or clearance with my small paycheck. He hounds me about every dollar I spend. I can’t go to the grocery store without having to calm my anxiety at the register because I know I will get yelled at. I know I need to leave and I’m saving up for that but it’s the kids I worry about. I know I won’t make enough to give them the life he will. I know if I get a full time job – they will suffer – back in daycare for hours on end because he won’t pick them up or help out with them. He cleans all the time. My cleaning is never enough for him. He sees dirt where there isn’t any. Our counselors have told him he’s abusive and he has an anxiety disorder. He stops going. I stay for my kids, because they have a nice roof over their heads. I’d be long gone if I didn’t have children. I know he’s not right.

    Kim Saeed says February 11, 2020

    Hi Cindy, I can relate to your experience as it mirrors what I used to go through.

    Honestly, I moved out and went on government assistance for a while. The embarrassment of doing that was far less than being under my ex’s thumb. I made just enough to take care of my children and still have time to be there for them. And now, I don’t have to worry about a thing.

    I wouldn’t recommend staying under a nice roof in exchange for mental abuse. Especially that children can develop PTSD from seeing a parent being verbally abused. Children who grow up in toxic households are often scarred for life. When I was first out on my own, we didn’t have much, but the peace of mind was so worth it.

    Wishing you and your children the best…


Sharon says November 11, 2019

What can a parent do when their daughter, who has children with a narc, get her to see the truth of what is happening? Very concerned about her mental health.

Geraldine says November 1, 2019

That’s very interesting and might explain why my spending went a bit out of control (on line shopping) once he was out of my life. I recognised it was probably because I was depressed but I now see it is also because of being held back so long from being able to spend money.

    Molly says April 20, 2020

    I just posted this same thing! I am way overspending as a form of comfort and because I wasn’t “allowed” to spend money the way I wanted. Scary.

Sibahle says October 30, 2019

I don’t know where I’ll be without you Kim. My ex narc tried that ‘quit your job I’ll be able to take care of you’ line..but I thought about the struggle it to me & parents to finish at Varsity, after that got a job & still continuing with Post Grad just drop all of that for him, no. What’s worse is he left me to raise our kid on my own (was busy arranging work transfer when I was heavily pregnant, 1000 miles away!), I thought to myself, will never. So even with his kid (3 year), he just showers him with materialistic things, there’s no emotional connection, whatsoever. Anyway I thank God I came across you Kim, you’ve helped me so much.

Bob says October 29, 2019

Kim this really hits home for me at this time, I’m a few months no contact ( well not really more like no response no contact ) (oh and the no response no contact is all about money) some times I feel ok about money other times I have much fear about finances. Reading this I think back about how the finances were an I could not make pay enough bills it was never enough. she always made me feel I was in adequate. while she spent vigorously. Trying to rebuild myself now I thought it was going to be a lot easier than it is right now. I though just finally leaving an going no contact would make me whole again, i’m finding out different if it wasn’t for the emotional support of my sister I wouldn’t be here and away from the circus. Some of my other family have ghosted me also, like i’m I big wrong one an she’s the poor victim, my own kids, they didn’t live with what I lived with, i’m hoping in time they will come to understand it was for the best for me and her. For now it’s one day at a time sometimes one hour at a time. The three years of almost total detachment while I was still living with didn’t prepare me for what i’m going through now.

    Cindy says November 28, 2019

    Hang in there,
    You can’t stay with these people. You can still feel love for them but it’s best done without them ruling your life. I pray for mine every day. I love him but to be in love with him would mean I don’t care about my own well being. Forgive yourself. Forgive them and keep moving forward. Your kids will eventually see it. Proud of you for walking away!

Anne Pemberton says October 29, 2019

This is very interesting but i believe the opposite is also true. I can earn well but im afraid of money., I give it away because of my fear of abundance due to having a narc mother then a very long (35y) narc / empath marriage. Im free now fixing all my subconscious conditioning. I was exactly the person you described but money was wrapped up in sex and power and i was the breadwinner.

    Kim Saeed says November 5, 2019

    Hi Anne, you bring up a good point. I’ve coached many women in your shoes. Best of luck as you dissolve those blocks to abundance!

    Kim XoXo

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